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Drones and wind turbines: how close can you fly?

07/12/2020

More and more drones fly longer distances where the pilot does not have the drone in sight. These are so-called BVLOS or Beyond-visual-line-of-sight flights. The airspace has therefore been fully mapped out so that pilots can always take obstacles into account. But the wind turbines in the Belgian landscape do not always make such BVLOS flights easy.

The layout of the action space

The Belgian landscape has more than 500 wind turbines, all of which have been mapped to ensure the safety of drone flights. Wind turbines are special obstacles in the airspace: they move a lot of air with their blades, causing turbulence up to a kilometre further. That affects flight stability for both drones and aircraft. In addition, wind turbines are at least 120 meters high and drones cannot just fly above them. It is, therefore, crucial to know how far the drone must stay from a working wind turbine in order to pass it safely.

Tested in the Aspiravi wind farm in Lommel

That is why Citymesh, Maxicon and Aspiravi joined forces. The drone pilots have conducted extensive tests in the wind farm in Lommel. This allowed them to find out what the minimum safe distance between a drone and a wind turbine should be. That distance strongly depends on the mass, type and size of the drone as well as the size of the wind turbine. To take these different factors into account, the pilots repeated the test with different drone types.

This way, they have succeeded in determining the minimum safe distance and further optimizing the action area of the drones.

BVLOS for emergency services and in the port area

Citymesh is now getting to work with the results of these tests. Citymesh offers drones-as-a-service for emergency services such as the fire brigade and police. The pilots operate these drones from the Citymesh command centre in Oostkamp. The Safety Drone will soon also be used in ports where large numbers of wind turbines have been installed.

Aspiravi uses the results of the tests in their own way: they can now better estimate when it is necessary to turn off wind turbines and when not, for example during major events or during drone flights. This way, both parties experience less inconvenience and Aspiravi itself can use drone services such as inspection flights and parcel deliveries.

Now this is it.
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